It is as if these 2021 Red Sox, up-and-down throughout the regular season — have been selected by the baseball gods to punish the cheatin’ Astros for their 2017 crimes against hardball humanity.
The Sox bludgeoned the Houstons again Monday, blasting to a 9-0 lead in the third inning and cruising to a 12-3 Game 3 ALCS victory. It feels like we should just fast-forward to the World Series. Bring on the Braves or the Dodgers. Let’s be done with Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and the rest of the nefarious Trash Can Dreamers.
This is baseball egalitarianism. In real time. At Fenway. Sweet.
America hates the Astros, but sanctions for Houston’s 2017 championship cheating weren’t levied until January of 2020 and the ‘20 big league season was a hollow, fan-free, 60-game farce. Fans never had a chance to let the Astros hear it.
Now the Red Sox are doling out Fenway frontier justice. Loudly. The Sons of Cora took 9-0 leads in Games 2 and 3, crushing three grand slams in the process. Houston manager Dusty Baker is already out of pitching, and former MVP Altuve has made two crucial errors.
When have we ever seen this? In the playoffs. Back to back 9-0 leads. Three grannies in two games.
Ground Control To Major Tom. Your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong.
It is not supposed to be this easy. The Red Sox are delivering punishment that was denied by COVID and MLB’s immunity from prosecution. Finally, the ‘Stros are being undressed in front of Baseball America.
We need to be careful because some of us (me, for one) said it was over when the A-Rod Yankees thrashed the sorry Sox, 19-8, to take a three-games-to-none lead in the 2004 ALCS. We all know how that one turned out.
But it’s hard to make a case for the Dust-Man and his careening Astros after what we’ve seen the last three days. The Red Sox lead this series by a mere two-games-to-one, but this feels like the Michael Jordan Dream Team vs. Angola in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. The Red Sox led, 9-0, in the fourth inning of Game 2 Saturday and 9-0 in the third inning Monday.
There are a lot of layers. The Sox have had their own cheating transgressions (2017 and 2018) and are managed by Cora, who was punished for his (bench coach) role in the ‘Stros scandal and had to sit out last season like some low-level New England Patriot employee exiled for videotaping opponents or deflating footballs. Cora went away for a year, only to come back to (thus far) embarrass the guys he won with in ‘17.
Some of this was on display in the sixth inning Monday when Eduardo Rodriguez, ever the bad boy of the Sox rotation, taunted Houston’s stud shortstop Carlos Correa, pointing to an imaginary wrist watch after retiring Correa to end the sixth with the Sox leading, 9-3. Correa, you might remember, mocked the Sox at Minute Maid Park when he went to his watch in the batter’s box after hitting a go-ahead homer off Hansel Robles in the seventh inning of Game 1.
Emotional E-Rod returned the favor with a big lead in Game 3, but Cora didn’t like it. He yelled at Rodriguez from his dugout perch, then embraced the young lefty when E-Rod got to the dugout.
What a night at the old ballyard.
Fenway was loud and festive and the scalding-hot Sox juiced the blood-thirsty throng with a six-spot off once-good José Urquidy (5⅔ scoreless innings in the 2017 World Series) in the second inning.
Alex Verdugo drew a one-out walk, which was followed by a left-center gap double by J.D. Martinez. After another walk and an RBI single by Christian Vázquez, Christian Arroyo hit what should have been an inning-ending double play to Altuve, who could not handle the hard grounder. It was another run and everybody was safe.
While Baker slept in the dugout, Urquidy fell behind Kyle Schwarber, 3 and 0. Cora correctly lets the Schwarber do what he wants in this situation and The Schwarb crushed a cookie way over the fence in right for a 6-0 lead. Fans chanted “[expletive] Altuve.’’ It was bedlam. It was Boston’s third grand slam in two games.
The Dust-man watched Urquidy give up two more hits before lifting him. None of Houston’s three starters have finished the third inning in this series. The Astros got 15 outs from them.
Cora turned 46 Monday and improved his career postseason record to 17-5. His Sox will be going for the kill Tuesday and Wednesday at Fenway.
Across America, all baseball fans will be Red Sox fans.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.